AFC East: Daunte Culpepper

DAVIE, Fla. -- It’s an old story in South Florida, but it's definitely an interesting one. There was a time when New Orleans Saints Pro Bowler Drew Brees nearly became the Miami Dolphins' franchise quarterback.

Brees
Brees was a free-agent quarterback in 2006. The Dolphins and Saints were the two biggest suitors. However, Brees was coming off a major shoulder injury, which put fear in the Dolphins.

Miami wound up backing out of the Brees sweepstakes and signed Daunte Culpepper instead. New Orleans signed Brees and went on to multiple playoff seasons and one Super Bowl victory, while the Dolphins struggled with the quarterback position.

“I do believe I was their first choice, but at the end of the day I felt like New Orleans was the best fit for me for a lot of reasons, not just football,” Brees said on Thursday’s conference call with the Miami media. “I know they ran me through a round of physicals and evaluations and all kinds of stuff when I was there, which was not a good experience obviously. But I understood. They were going to put a big investment in me, so they wanted to make sure.”

Brees said he recalls Miami’s doctors saying he had about a 25 percent chance of playing in the NFL again. Obviously, they were wrong. Brees, 34, has been one of the NFL’s most durable and productive quarterbacks. He missed just one game in New Orleans over the past eight seasons.

It's a small sidebar to Monday’s battle of undefeated teams, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Brees has moved on and so have the Dolphins, who finally have a young gunslinger in second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

“Here’s the thing: We can sit back and chuckle at it now, but there’s no hard feelings,” Brees explained of his Miami experience. “Everything happened the way it was supposed to. I don’t think about it for a second. I really don’t.”

Links: Parcells reflects on Jets, Dolphins

July, 18, 2013
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Buffalo Bills

T.J. Graham, Robert Woods and Brad Smith are all in contention for the No. 2 role behind wide receiver Stevie Johnson, who tells the team's official website: "The competition is going to be crazy because of the talent that we have."

ESPN.com's projected quarterback rankings has Kevin Kolb positioned at No. 31 and EJ Manuel right behind at No. 32 overall.

Miami Dolphins

“I’m excited for all the new weapons we’ve brought in,” said second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill in response to a fan's question. During the same conference call Wednesday evening, the Miami Herald reports Tannehill reminded fans that he likely will never be another Robert Griffin III. "I don’t think we’re going to rely heavily on my feet. ... I don’t think it’ll be a pillar of our offense." See video of Tannehill answering questions.

Running back Lamar Miller tells the team's official website that in his second year, he's "down with the playbook" and he expects Tannehill to have a breakout season.

Bill Parcells claims he brought more talent to the Dolphins, but regrets some of the decisions he made as the team's top football executive, writes Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel.

"Miami is a bit short on reliable fantasy options going into the season, but that presents the opportunity for sleepers here," reports Eric Mack of Sports Illustrated.

Former NFL quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who purchased a South Florida house when he was signed by the Dolphins in 2006, has lost the home to a bank in a foreclosure case.

New England Patriots

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, now a murder suspect, has been pulled from yet another group of products, reports ESPN's Darren Rovell.

As with cornerback Ras-I Dowling, Marquice Cole's chances of securing a roster spot will be impacted by the availability of Alfonzo Dennard, writes ESPNBoston.com's Mike Rodak.

Speaking of corners, Patriots Football Weekly argues for which player they'd rather have on the field: Dowling or Cole.

The Patriots will be one of eight NFL teams to take part in a pilot program during the 2013 season in which a player's entire medical record will be available for team doctors to examine on the sideline of a game via the use of an iPad, reports Field Yates of ESPNBoston.com.

Christopher Price, of WEEI.com, breaks down the Patriots' linebackers for 2013.

New York Jets

Bill Parcells said he believes his best coaching performance occurred in an 8-8 season -- 1999, his final year as the Jets' coach, according to Rick Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com. "Holding that team together to accomplish that, I think probably was one of the better things. That wasn't any monumental success or anything, but I think most coaches will tell you, when you start 1-6, it's tough to maintain the things you need to be successful," said Parcells.

Jeff Cumberland has a chance to establish himself as a legitimate starting tight end, but how will the new guy, Kellen Winslow, factor into the Jets' offense?
Here are the most interesting stories Saturday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: This certainly stops all the Peyton Manning rumors in New York. Sanchez also is confirmed as a locker-room leader in 2012, while the Jets get much-needed cap room.
Morning take: Brees was the last elite quarterback to hit free agency, and the Dolphins had a good shot at him. They ended up with Daunte Culpepper instead, and you know the rest.
Morning take: Although I think Mike Wallace is a better option, Lloyd isn't a bad fit for the Patriots. He is very familiar with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and New England needs a deep threat.
Morning take: This is another solid signing by Buffalo, which continues to keep its own players. Morrison has a chance to compete next season at outside linebacker.

Did 'Madden 12' snub Mannings, Brady?

March, 25, 2011
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If there truly is a "Madden" curse, perhaps it's not reserved for the player who appears on the video game's cover each year.

Maybe the real curse is in choosing him.

"It's very polarizing," said Anthony Stevenson, senior product manager for EA Sports, the game's manufacturer. "No matter what we do, half the people will be really, really happy, and half the people will hate it."

Not even turning the process over to the people will solve EA Sports' annual problem. For the first time in the game's 23 years, fans can vote for their favorite team to be on the "Madden NFL 12" cover.

A representative for each of the 32 clubs has been seeded in a single-elimination tournament. A weeklong vote will be held for each round until a champion is announced April 27 on ESPN. Fans also can participate in a March Madness-style bracket challenge to predict the outcome.

Funzo democracy at work, right?

Turns out, folks aren't entirely thrilled with the individual nominees. Reigning MVP Tom Brady and perennial fan favorite Peyton Manning aren't in the field. The Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers are represented by offensive tackles. The Seattle Seahawks' option isn't a player at all.

One of the rumors making the rounds is that unusual nominees were required because some stars declined an invitation, that they were afraid of the so-called "Madden" curse.

Eddie George, Daunte Culpepper, Michael Vick, Vince Young and Brett Favre are among the supposedly doomed honorees.

Stevenson doesn't buy the connection, although fans have started Facebook campaigns for their favorite players not to get votes.

"People do believe there's a curse with Sports Illustrated covers or 'Madden' covers," Stevenson said. "As an NFL player, you cannot believe in that. If you believe in something like that, then you concede when you step on the field, and something bad happens it's not in your control.

"If you believe in a curse, you're probably in trouble. You're asking to get hurt. Athletes want to believe their well-being and their success or failure is 100 percent in their hands."

In fact, Stevenson sees the opposite of a curse when it comes to the "Madden" video-game franchise.

"All of our past cover athletes get together every year, and it's almost like the '72 Dolphins," Stevenson said. "They get together, and it's literally a fraternity."

This year's pledge period is a tournament bracket.

Stevenson called Thursday to explain why a few of the more interesting nominees were chosen.

[+] EnlargeDanny Woodhead
EA SportsDanny Woodhead's story was one reason he was picked over league MVP Tom Brady.
On the decision to nominate New England Patriots running back Danny Woodhead instead of Brady:
"Tom Brady has been there and done that, and certainly he's very deserving of a 'Madden' cover. But Danny Woodhead is such a unique story people fell in love with. He was on 'Hard Knocks.' We followed the emotional cut from the New York Jets. We know Rex Ryan didn't want to let him go. And then to see that division rival pick him up and how integral he was to that Patriots offense ... if you wanted to put a campaign around him from cut to cover, that's just tough to pass up. Everybody loves an underdog."

On choosing the 12th Man for the Seahawks:
"It's the only team that doesn't have an actual player. It's the 12th Man, and the simplest explanation I can give for that is to see the Saints-Seahawks playoff game. That's really all you need to know. They have this unique fan element to it. The 12th Man is legit."

On bypassing Manning for Dwight Freeney for the Indianapolis Colts:
"Like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning is justified to be on the cover any year. But it almost feels that while [Manning] had a very good year, it wasn't his best year. Statistically, it probably was his least successful year in the last five or six. To do it this year seemed a little bit off.
"Dwight Freeney is one of the most feared defenders in the league. We just thought this was something Dwight Freeney could get excited about and get behind and be a brand ambassador."

On choosing the Green Bay Packers' nominee, Aaron Rodgers:
"Green Bay was really difficult. Clay Matthews is a very compelling personality right now. That was a tough decision, but at the end of the day, if you win Super Bowl MVP, you're going to get the nod. But it was a struggle."

On the New York Giants' decision:
"There's Eli Manning. There's Ahmad Bradshaw. But in the end we went with Hakeem Nicks because I felt like he's really the game-changer on that team. He's an up-and-coming wide receiver. I don't think anybody would be shocked if he was a top-three wide receiver at the end of next season. I thought he was fresh blood that would be very interesting."
[+] EnlargeJake Long
EA SportsJake Long is the Dolphins' representative for the "Madden NFL 12" cover tournament.
On selecting left tackle Jake Long over a Dolphins skill-position player such as receiver Brandon Marshall:
"Jake Long's play on the field speaks for itself. But having that lineman -- along with [Carolina Panthers tackle] Jordan Gross -- is something we've never had. We wanted to give fans options. If there wasn't an absolutely obvious choice, and for the Dolphins there wasn't, why not give fans an opportunity to vote for an offensive lineman?"

Controversial nominees only help in getting fans enthused about the process.

In addition to creating buzz for the product, the "Madden NFL 12" cover tournament provides a distraction from an otherwise depressing time for the NFL.

"We thought it was really important to give our fans something to be excited about, put a positive spin on the NFL offseason," Stevenson said. "We're making a concerted effort to engage our fans and let them know that there's still going to be a new, innovating game coming out in August. And, if anything, football fans and 'Madden' fans can take solace in that.

"'Madden' potentially could help fill a void this year. Just because Tom Brady can't lead the Patriots to the Super Bowl doesn't mean you can't. You can still do that in 'Madden' and get your football fix."

Miami has refused to get serious at QB

December, 28, 2010
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The Miami Dolphins have been a lost franchise when it comes to quarterback.

Since Dan Marino's retirement, they've drafted duds (John Beck, Pat White), passed on studs (Drew Brees, Matt Ryan) and chased scuds (Daunte Culpepper, Trent Green).

Monday on the AFC East blog, I wondered where the Dolphins would be had they chosen Ryan first overall in 2008 instead of left tackle Jake Long.

Luis DeLoureiro of NFLStatsAnalysis.net also examined the Dolphins' ongoing quarterback woes for a piece on "The Fifth Down" blog at NYTimes.com.

Chad Henne certainly hasn't looked like the answer. The Dolphins this upcoming offseason probably will resume their decade-long search for the most important player on their roster.

DeLoureiro noted the Dolphins are one of only seven NFL teams to have avoided drafting a quarterback in the first round since 1998. The others are the New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks. All except the Dolphins and Panthers have their man identified.

Counting on Tom Brady- or Tony Romo-type luck isn't a sound organizational strategy.

DeLoureiro pointed out the Dolphins have preferred to spend second-round picks on quarterbacks. They did so five straight drafts, trading for A.J. Feeley and Culpepper and then selecting Beck, Henne and White.

A dozen quarterbacks have been drafted in the second round since 2001. Henne and Jimmy Clausen are the only two starting for the teams that took them. Kordell Stewart and Jake Plummer are the only two second-round quarterbacks to have a degree of success since 1990.

DeLoureiro wrote:
For almost 20 years, Dan Marino was the face of the Dolphins. Although he didn’t win a title, he broke just about every significant single-season and career passing record. One would think that, more than anyone, the Dolphins would understand the value of a franchise quarterback. But the team has opted to avoid the risk involved with first-round quarterbacks. Unfortunately, they have also lost out on the reward that comes with first-round quarterbacks.

Dolphins on 15th starting QB since Marino

November, 18, 2010
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Buffalo Bills fans thought they had it rough, trying to find a semblance of quarterback stability since their Hall of Fame quarterback retired in 1996.

With Tyler Thigpen about to become the Miami Dolphins' third starting quarterback of the season, it's time to dust off that long list of quarterbacks to have started since Dan Marino hung up that weird boxing-boot cleat after the 1999 season.

Thigpen will be the 15th quarterback to start a game for Miami since Marino retired.

Only twice in those 11 seasons has a quarterback started all 16 games. Those "perfect seasons" came seven years and 11 new starting quarterbacks apart. The Bills at least had Drew Bledsoe starting 48 straight games from 2002 through 2004.

This will be the fourth season in which at least three quarterbacks started for the Dolphins since Marino retired.

2000: Jay Fiedler (15), Damon Huard (one)

2001: Fiedler (16)

2002: Fielder (10), Ray Lucas (six)

2003: Fiedler (11), Brian Griese (five)

2004: A.J. Feeley (eight), Fiedler (seven), Sage Rosenfels (one)

2005: Gus Frerotte (15), Rosenfels (one)

2006: Joey Harrington (11), Daunte Culpepper (four), Cleo Lemon (one)

2007: Lemon (seven), Trent Green (five), John Beck (four)

2008: Chad Pennington (16)

2009: Chad Henne (13), Pennington (three)

2010: Henne (eight), Pennington (one)

Time also gets crunched for Dolphins

November, 15, 2010
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Teams usually get six days between games to take inventory of their roster and get healthy.

The Miami Dolphins get three days to recover from Sunday's carnage and significantly less time to come up with a game plan for Thursday night's game against the Chicago Bears in Sun Life Stadium.

Expect several roster moves in the coming hours for a team that lost its top two quarterbacks, star left tackle and maybe its sacks leader.

General manager Jeff Ireland will be combing the streets for free agents. It's hard enough to find somebody to contribute on the fly, but to get them up to snuff on a playbook within 72 hours is practically impossible.

JaMarcus Russell, Patrick Ramsey and Chris Simms all have been reported as quarterbacks of interest for Miami. The United Football League season ends in a couple weeks. That would make former NFL starters such as Daunte Culpepper, Jeff Garcia, Brooks Bollinger, Tim Rattay and Josh McCown available. Former starter Cleo Lemon is almost done with his Canadian Football League season.

Starting quarterback Chad Pennington suffered a shoulder injury. Previous starter Chad Henne went down with a knee injury. Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long reportedly dislocated a shoulder. Outside linebacker Cameron Wake hurt a hip.

The Dolphins have been scrappy in staying above .500 and in the AFC playoff race. But their 29-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans might have been their Waterloo because of the injuries.

The Dolphins won the game but still failed to gain any ground on the New York Jets or New England Patriots, who won on the road to remain two games ahead of the Dolphins.

Now Miami must scramble to field a team and identify somebody on its roster who won't get Tyler Thigpen destroyed. Vernon Carey played left tackle in 2007, but hasn't seen time there since Long was drafted first overall in 2008.

Check back for updates on the Dolphins' roster.

Report: Moss 'willing to sit out season'

November, 3, 2010
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Boston Herald writer Ian R. Rapoport, citing a source close to Randy Moss, reports the receiver is willing to sit out the remainder of the season if an unattractive team claims him Wednesday.

The Minnesota Vikings waived Moss on Tuesday. Clubs can submit a claim for him in reverse order of their records, with the winless Buffalo Bills holding top priority and the 6-1 New England Patriots at the back of the line.

Moss' only NFL options if he gets claimed would be to play for his new employer or refuse to report. Maybe he would reunite with former coach Dennis Green and quarterback Daunte Culpepper with Sacramento of the UFL (I write half-jokingly).

Moss would be free to sign anywhere in the NFL only if none of the 32 teams submits a waiver claim.

The source told Rapoport that Moss "wants a ring" and is "willing to sit out the season."

So unless the Bills want to be publicly embarrassed -- hey, Jim Kelly and Tom Cousineau famously refused to show up in Orchard Park and chose to play in other leagues -- they probably should pass on Moss.

Could a UFL team really beat the Bills?

October, 21, 2010
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Bill FansAP Photo/ David DupreyIt's been a tough season in Buffalo, where there are whispers of a possible 0-16 season by the Bills.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills linebacker Paul Posluszny laughed, but he wasn't happy to hear the question.

He kept chuckling throughout his response, although it was obvious by the tone in his voice and the look in his eyes that the topic agitated him.

How close would the game be if the Bills played the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League?

"That's saying that we're minor-league, that a minor-league team could compete with us," said Posluszny, perched on a stool at his locker stall Thursday morning. "The thing that makes me mad is we put ourselves in this situation.

Duante Culpepper
AP Photo/Rich PedroncelliThe UFL has several former NFL players, like Sacramento Mountain Lions QB Daunte Culpepper.
"If we're winning games or competitive, then you're not talking to me about this. But it's our fault. It's my fault. I can't blame you or Las Vegas. We've got to fix it."

The Bills are winless through five games and have played so poorly they're already being talked about as a legitimate candidate to finish the season 0-16. They've surrendered at least 30 points in four straight games, something that never had been done in franchise history.

The trend will be difficult to alter Sunday. The Bills will visit the Baltimore Ravens in M&T Bank Stadium.

For much of the season, the Bills have been out of their league.

Some in the UFL, a five-team league comprised of many former NFL players hoping to extend their careers, believe they would have a shot to beat Buffalo.

"I don't think we could compete with the upper two-thirds of the NFL," Locomotives head coach Jim Fassel said. "The lower-echelon teams, I think it would be an excellent game."

Hartford Colonials quarterback Josh McCown, who spent eight years in the NFL, predicted: "It would be fun to watch. I know one thing: There'd be a lot more pressure on Buffalo than there would be on Las Vegas. There'd be some good give and take."

With that in mind, I asked Las Vegas Sports Consultants, the oddsmaking firm that supplies the numbers for about 75 percent of Nevada's legal sportsbooks, to provide a legitimate spread for the Bills and Locomotives.

The Bills would be favored by 10.5 points on a neutral field.

That's a comfortable margin and not necessarily a true reflection of the difference in class between teams from different leagues. Spreads factor all sorts of game situations, and this number was tempered to account for the likelihood the Bills would outclass the Locomotives early and manage the clock for much of the contest.

"If Buffalo needed to win by four touchdowns and their lives depended on it, they probably could do it," Las Vegas Sports Consultants senior oddsmaker Mike Seba said. "But that's not usually the way it goes down."

Most notable about the spread for this fictional game isn't that the Bills are favored, but the number itself.

Nine NFL games, three of them involving the Bills, have featured a spread larger than 10.5 points so far this season. The Bills are 13-point underdogs Sunday against the Ravens, were 14.5-point underdogs to the New England Patriots in Week 3 and 12.5-point underdogs to the Green Bay Packers in Week 2.

Those numbers indicate the Bills are closer to the UFL than they are to the best NFL teams.

"Even though the Bills might be having a tough time, they're still the NFL," said Daunte Culpepper, the former Pro Bowl quarterback now playing for the UFL's Sacramento Mountain Lions. "I don't think anybody should overlook that. Those players are in the NFL for a reason."

Culpepper has heard this kind of barroom and message-board banter before.

He started five games for the Detroit Lions in 2008. That team became the first in NFL history to go 0-16. People wondered if the USC team that featured Mark Sanchez would give the Lions trouble.

But Culpepper wasn't totally dismissive of the Locomotives' chances against the Bills.

"I've played in the NFL, and I've played in the UFL. The competition is there," Culpepper said. "The ability and the level of play is there. The NFL is the best of the best, but there's only about 1,500 jobs in the NFL. There's more than 1,500 guys that can play at the NFL level."

UFL investor Mark Cuban pointed out the NFL is comprised of younger talent, but because of salary-cap issues and veteran minimum salaries, teams rarely fill out their rosters with the best 53 players available to them. That leaves plenty of NFL-caliber veterans out of work.

Cuban knows a little about sports business. He owns the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and has tried to add Major League Baseball to his portfolio. He nearly purchased the Texas Rangers this year.

"You can argue skill positions may be better in the NFL, but you can't argue experience," Cuban said. "The UFL rosters from the bottom up are far more experienced than the Bills are."

NFL teams are reluctant to take chances on veterans as they accrue experience. A player with four to six seasons in the NFL makes a minimum salary of $630,000. Players with seven to nine seasons must be paid at least $755,000.

The average 53-man NFL active roster had 15.7 players who are 24 or younger as of Wednesday, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The winless Carolina Panthers had 27 players in that category. The Bills had 17.

Three of the UFL's five teams had nine or fewer players age 24 or under. The Locomotives had nine on their roster. The Florida Tuskers had two.

"People are afraid to take a five-year vested veteran and pay him the minimum and get the risk that he might get injured," Fassel said. "There's no question that adds up. All you need is five or six guys get hurt and that's $5 million in your cap."

Many NFL clubs don't spend anywhere near to the salary cap anyway. They commonly save money on their reserve players.

"It's not just Buffalo. It's every team," Cuban said. "The balance of talent versus cost versus winning is not an easy one to create. Sure, some teams may spend more than the Bills, but they all go through the same decision process."

As a result, the UFL can field bona-fide players at positions such as quarterback and running back and stock their coaching staffs with NFL-weathered coaches. Fassel, for instance, guided the New York Giants to a Super Bowl XXXV appearance 10 seasons ago.

Last year, Fassel won the UFL's inaugural championship game with former Bills quarterback J.P. Losman. At the time, I got a strong impression Bills fans gladly would've traded their coach-quarterback combo of Dick Jauron and Trent Edwards for Fassel and Losman.

Still, the consensus, even among the most ardent UFL supporters, is the Bills probably would beat the Locomotives handily.

"I have a lot of respect for those guys," Bills running back Fred Jackson said. He came up through the minors as a low-level arena player and then NFL Europa. "I know there's a lot of talent in those leagues. But this is the National Football League. This is the best of the best. I've got to believe with my whole heart it would be a one-sided affair."

There are no guarantees, though, and that's why this fictional game never would take place. It would be all risk, no reward for the NFL.

The last time a "minor league" was granted such an opportunity was in 1961, when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the more established Canadian Football League beat the fledgling American Football League's Bills in a preseason game.

"As a player for an NFL team, obviously it bothers us that's even a conversation out there," Posluszny said, "that we're playing so bad right now that people think a UFL team can compete with us because they can't.

"Once again, we're 0-5. We haven't proved to anybody that we're a big-time team. It's troubling to us because we're an NFL football team and we should be able to act like it and play like it and win games."

Saban regrets mishandling Miami exit

June, 23, 2010
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Did you know that McDonald's milkshakes now are served with whipped cream and a cherry under a dome lid?

Wacky, I know.

Sometimes established behavior needs to be altered.

I buzzed the McDonald's drive-thru on the way home from Barnes & Noble, where I picked up the latest issue of The Sporting News. I'd read online snippets of Steve Greenberg's Q&A with Alabama head coach Nick Saban and wanted to check out the whole interview.

For four years, Saban remained unapologetic about his departure from the Miami Dolphins. Saban insisted he wasn't leaving for the Alabama job and then did just that after two disappointing NFL seasons.

In The Sporting News interview, Saban expressed remorse.

Greenberg asked how being branded a liar affected Saban.
"Well, honesty and integrity is an important part of our character, my character. Those are words that we use all the time. I think that in my effort to protect our team at Miami -- because I had not talked to Alabama and did not talk to them until the season ended -- I expressed that [character is important] to [Alabama] through my agent and said it was up to them whether they wanted to wait and that I would not make any promises. I would talk to them then. I would only reassess my circumstances and our situation as a family at the end of the year. But I kept getting asked about this over and over and over, and in trying to defuse the interest and leave the focus on our team in Miami [long pause] ... I had a responsibility and obligation to the players on that team, the coaches on the staff, and I didn't want that to be the focus of attention. So would I manage it differently? Absolutely. I would still have the same integrity for our team, but I just would not answer any questions relative to Alabama.

"But I also feel like as a professional, you should have the opportunity -- just like LeBron James does or anybody else -- to make a decision based on what's best for your future and your family. And it may not be something that everybody agrees with, especially the fans of Cleveland or the fans of Miami. But you learn about yourself when you do things. As a family, we learned a lot about ourselves. ...

"I only feel badly that we did not stay there and finish the job, but at the same time we're very, very happy to be in a situation like we're in at Alabama. And happy because I really feel deep down that I learned I really am a college coach. We just make a bigger impact in college on the young people that we deal with, and that was something I missed and wanted to be a part of again. But I do apologize for any professional mishandling that might have occurred."

Greenberg asked if Saban might follow former USC coach Pete Carroll's path and return to the NFL. Saban said he has his family were "really satisfied" at Alabama.

Saban also said "I don't really feel like we failed" in his two seasons with the Dolphins. He admitted they miscalculated when choosing Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees, but cited the club's 4-12 record the year before he arrived and guided them to a 9-7 mark. They went 6-10 in his second season.

The record was bad enough for Dolfans, the lying even worse.

Saban's apology comes way too late.

Not even whipped cream or a cherry on top is going matter now.

Revising history for Patriots, Dolphins

May, 15, 2010
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The NFL Network produced a "Back to the Future" segment in which host Rich Eisen and analysts Warren Sapp and Jamie Dukes wondered how one reversed event from way back would've altered the course of history.

The first two scenarios referred to AFC East teams.

What if the New England Patriots didn't benefit from the tuck rule against the Oakland Raiders in the 2001 playoffs?

Facts or possibilities to consider:

  • Patriots don't win their first Super Bowl.
  • Patriots don't win any Super Bowls.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers go to Super Bowl XXXVI.
  • Jon Gruden takes Oakland to the Super Bowl.
  • Gruden stays in Oakland, doesn't go to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  • Buccaneers don't win Super Bowl XXXVII.
  • St. Louis Rams win two Super Bowls in three years.

What if the Miami Dolphins signed Drew Brees in 2006?

Facts or possibilities to consider:

  • Dolphins don't sign Daunte Culpepper.
  • Nick Saban stays and doesn't go to Alabama.
  • Owner Wayne Huizenga doesn't hire Bill Parcells to run football operations.
  • Dolphins don't draft Ted Ginn
  • Dolphins don't draft Chad Henne.
  • New Orleans Saints don't win Super Bowl XLIV.

Culpepper wants GMs to review the tape

April, 14, 2010
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CulpepperJames Lang/US PresswireQuarterback Daunte Culpepper is confident he can still help a team. He just needs a chance.
All his plays are there. Each throw, touchdown, interception, drop, sack, scramble, stumble and fumble of Daunte Culpepper's season with the Detroit Lions is on the playlist. He's not hiding from any of it.

In fact, he wants every play to be seen twice, burning DVDs that show the 50-yard-line and end-zone angles from the unbiased coaching tape.

"I put every play that I had on the DVD," Culpepper said. "It answers if I'm hurt. It answers if I can throw. It answers if I can make the plays.

"It's not a highlight film. It's every play -- good and bad -- just to show what I can do."

Culpepper doesn't need the whole world to review the footage. He would settle for a majority of the NFL's general managers to take a look and see for themselves whether he deserves a spot on the roster.

"The perception versus reality is the main thing I'm battling," Culpepper said. "I'm ready to go."

Last month, the free-agent quarterback dropped by the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla., to remind everybody he's out there. Culpepper doesn't have an agent, so it was up to him to work the room.

Culpepper stated the Buffalo Bills were the team with which he most wanted to play. He also mentioned he would be open to serving as a primary backup for a team such as the New England Patriots or even returning to the Miami Dolphins to make good on what he considers the worst season of his career.

Since then, I have obtained the promotional kit Culpepper has put together in hopes of convincing a front office he's worth an opportunity. He has hand-delivered the kit to at least five general managers so far.

The packet includes the DVD, testimonials, an outline of his negotiating protocol and a year-by-year breakdown of his career with a synopsis of each season, injuries and circumstances.

It's an interesting look at finding a job in the NFL. He realizes that with the draft about a week away, any team in need of a quarterback will wait to see what happens before signing a veteran, but he's eager to occupy a locker stall.

"The main vibe I'm getting from everybody is that they're posturing to see what goes on in the draft," Culpepper said. "I'm hoping somebody steps outside of the box and says 'I'm not going to wait to pull the trigger on a guy we can win with.' "

(Read full post)

Bills' pursuit of McNabb was inspired

April, 5, 2010
4/05/10
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The Buffalo Bills deserve credit for thinking big.

They failed in their quest to acquire quarterback Donovan McNabb, but Bills fans should be thrilled their front office at least tried something that bold.

The Philadelphia Eagles traded McNabb to the Washington Redskins on Easter night for a second-round pick in this year's draft plus a third- or fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft.

We don't know exactly what the Bills were offering. The Redskins' second-round pick was the 37th overall, four slots better than the Bills' second-rounder. But the Bills might have sweetened the deal with additional picks or players.

But the Bills couldn't swing the deal because McNabb was unwilling to sign an extension. He's entering the final year of his contract, and trading away assets for a veteran who'd be around for one unhappy season would have been ludicrous.

Multiple reports state McNabb simply didn't want to play for the Bills or the Oakland Raiders.

ESPN's Sal Paolantonio reports the Bills and Raiders had the two best offers on the table just last week. Yahoo! Sports writer Jason Cole reports the Bills were willing to offer McNabb an extension, but he wasn't interested.

While McNabb's rejection certainly was influenced by the Bills' dysfunction during a long decade without a playoff appearance, it shouldn't be a reflection of their current front office.

Rookie general manager Buddy Nix and new head coach Chan Gailey identified a need and went after one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in the league, a five-time Pro Bowler with 216 career touchdown passes and 100 interceptions.

Their pursuit of McNabb was inspired and far more significant to the franchise's potential well-being than the splash they made with one-and-done diva receiver Terrell Owens last year.

Nix and Gailey repeatedly declined to publicly reveal their depth chart, insisting Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm are interchangeable at this point. But Nix and Gailey also have mentioned multiple times they're on the lookout for a fourth quarterback.

At the recent NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla., Gailey noted he wanted to have his quarterback situation sorted out before the draft, which begins April 22.

"You'd like to have everything settled before you went into the draft," Gailey said. "The problem comes if you don't solve an issue before the draft. Then you have to try and solve it in the draft. Then if you don't solve it before the draft or in the draft, now your back's to the wall and everybody knows it. That's a bind you get into. Now they can hold you up."

What do the Bills do now?

Drafting a quarterback becomes a greater possibility. The Bills hold the ninth overall pick, but they have so many needs. Maybe Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen still will be on the board, creating a difficult decision. If the Bills go with another position in the first round and hold off until the 41st pick to look at quarterbacks, then University of Florida icon Tim Tebow, Texas' Colt McCoy or Central Michigan Dan LeFevour might become an attractive option.

Jason Campbell automatically becomes a possibility. He's a restricted free agent with a first-round tender, so an offer sheet is unlikely. But a trade could be worked out because he's not needed in Washington anymore.

Some unrestricted free agents: Kyle Boller, Daunte Culpepper, Josh McCown, Patrick Ramsey and Chris Simms. Other getable restricted free agents: Kellen Clemens and Troy Smith.

And, for the record, J.P. Losman's still out there.

Regardless of where the Bills find that fourth quarterback, it's impressive to know they aimed for McNabb.

If this is how Bills fans can expect their team to operate under their new front office, then there's genuine reason to get excited.

Culpepper to Bills: 'I can be the guy'

March, 23, 2010
3/23/10
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Dante CulpepperJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesVeteran quarterback Daunte Culpepper says he feels he can still help a team.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- I spoke with the NFL's most proactive free agent Monday.

Daunte Culpepper strolled around the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, happy to be recognized and hoping to plant an idea.

Culpepper doesn't have an agent. The three-time Pro Bowler represents himself, and what better way to market himself to prospective employers by attending the NFL owners meetings, a convention of executives and head coaches from all 32 teams?

"I'm here," Culpepper said, "to maybe have some conversations with whoever it may be, GMs or player personnel guys or head coaches, just to reiterate that I'm available and see if there were any situations where I can be brought in to contribute to an organization."

I asked Culpepper what clubs he wanted to make it a point to speak with. After a broad smile, the Buffalo Bills were the first to tumble from his lips. In fact, they were the only club he mentioned.

"I would love to talk to Buffalo," Culpepper said. "I don't know if they'd have an open mind, but I'd love to talk to them. I would love to have a chance to compete there.

"Give me the opportunity. I can be the guy."

Culpepper is well aware the Bills have an unsettled quarterback situation. They have three who started at least one game last year. Trent Edwards was former coach Dick Jauron's choice to start the season. Ryan Fitzpatrick was interim coach Perry Fewell's preference. Brian Brohm started a game because of injuries.

None, however, seem to appeal to new general manager Buddy Nix or head coach Chan Gailey.

"They haven't made any moves at quarterback," Culpepper said.

Earlier on Monday, in the same hallway I interviewed Culpepper, I asked Nix if the Bills' opening-day quarterback was on their roster.

"I have no idea," Nix replied. "I really don't know. I know that's what we got now, and it's open. Chan's made that clear. We're going to see who comes out. The fact that those are the three guys we got, we like all three of them, all of them got redeeming qualities, but if something else comes available, we might add a fourth to the mix. I don't know."

Culpepper's available. That's the whole point of his trip to Orlando from his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He never has attended the owners meetings before to shop his services.

"It's definitely humbling, but it's exciting to see everybody here," Culpepper said. "Hopefully, I can get some positive feedback and something would come from it.

"It's a process. I represent myself, so I figure I've got to do the things my agent would be doing. I put in the calls, but to be able to come to a place where everybody is here, just to talk, I think it would be very positive."

In the five seasons since Culpepper threw for 4,717 yards and 39 touchdowns for the Minnesota Vikings, he has been a vagabond, playing with four teams in that span. The Vikings traded him to the Miami Dolphins. He then bounced to the Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions.

He turned 33 in January and claimed he's fully recovered from the knee and foot injuries that have slowed him in seasons past. He said he's ready to work out for any team that wants to take a look-see.

As far as AFC East teams, the only one other than the Bills that might have room would be the New England Patriots. Undrafted sophomore Brian Hoyer is the lone reserve behind Tom Brady on the their QB depth chart. The Dolphins and New York Jets have four quarterbacks apiece and youngsters in the starting role.

"I would love to come in and compete for a starting job," Culpepper said. "I feel great physically. I'm 100 percent right now. I'm working on that every day. But whatever the role might be ... If a team needs a veteran backup to come in, either way. I feel I can contribute."

Henne fifth of 13 Fins starters to win post-Marino

October, 4, 2009
10/04/09
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Nobody ever will replace Dan Marino with the Miami Dolphins.
Henne

But for crying out loud, they need to get a regular quarterback at some point.

Maybe Chad Henne will be that guy. That's why the Dolphins drafted him in the second round out of Michigan last year.

Henne made his first NFL start Sunday, completing 14 of 22 passes for 115 yards and one touchdown to beat the Buffalo Bills in Land Shark Stadium.

Henne become the 13th Dolphins quarterback to start since Marino retired. That was more recently than you probably think. Although it seems like a lifetime ago for Dolfans, the post-Marino era began in 2000.

Henne is only the fifth quarterback to win his first start for the Dolphins since Marino retired.

The rundown of quarterbacks who have started for Miami since Marino retired, with 2001 the only season they didn't use a new one (asterisk denotes winner in first start).

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